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This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society." (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist). The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, an This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society." (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist). The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their "strange and foreign ways." Americans' anxiety over Irish Catholics turned xenophobia into a national political movement. Chinese immigrants were excluded, Japanese incarcerated, and Mexicans deported. Today, Americans fear Muslims, Latinos, and the so-called browning of America. Forcing us to confront this history, Lee explains how xenophobia works, why it has endured, and how it threatens America. Now updated with an afterword reflecting on how the coronavirus pandemic turbocharged xenophobia, America for Americans is an urgent spur to action for any concerned citizen.


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This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society." (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist). The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, an This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society." (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist). The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their "strange and foreign ways." Americans' anxiety over Irish Catholics turned xenophobia into a national political movement. Chinese immigrants were excluded, Japanese incarcerated, and Mexicans deported. Today, Americans fear Muslims, Latinos, and the so-called browning of America. Forcing us to confront this history, Lee explains how xenophobia works, why it has endured, and how it threatens America. Now updated with an afterword reflecting on how the coronavirus pandemic turbocharged xenophobia, America for Americans is an urgent spur to action for any concerned citizen.

30 review for America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A detailed account of the United States’ devastating history of xenophobia. Erika Lee shows how anti-immigrant prejudice and discrimination manifested against Catholic immigrants, then Chinese immigrants, then Italian, Jewish, and Eastern European immigrants, then Mexicans living in the United States, then Japanese Americans, and now Muslim Americans. As you can see just from that sentence, the United States has a long and abhorrent history of xenophobia, oftentimes against people who were Unite A detailed account of the United States’ devastating history of xenophobia. Erika Lee shows how anti-immigrant prejudice and discrimination manifested against Catholic immigrants, then Chinese immigrants, then Italian, Jewish, and Eastern European immigrants, then Mexicans living in the United States, then Japanese Americans, and now Muslim Americans. As you can see just from that sentence, the United States has a long and abhorrent history of xenophobia, oftentimes against people who were United States citizens too (e.g., the deportation of Mexicans during the Great Depression and the forcing of Japanese Americans into internment camps). Lee’s writing is straightforward and she reveals a history that we should all be aware of as we take action to fight xenophobia. There is a lot of history packed into this book so prepare for fact after fact if you read this one. Also, while I appreciated Lee’s recommendations for action and policy in the conclusion chapter, I wondered if there could have been more commentary inserted throughout the book to break up some of the historical timeline. Still, would recommend for those who want to learn more about xenophobia in the United States and our awful treatment of immigrants.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    lucidly breaks down the history of xenophobia and nativism in the US, from the nation’s earliest days into the present.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Disclaimer: Erika Lee is my sister. She is also a SUPER STUD/award-winning historian and this is her fourth book! It is outstanding, informative, disturbing, and... SHOCKING! From her Washington Post Perspective published on 11/26/19 entitled, "Trump’s xenophobia is an American tradition — but it doesn’t have to be," "...the truth is that xenophobia has always been a central part of American life. It is an American tradition that shapes our worldview, mobilizes voters and generates profits. It in Disclaimer: Erika Lee is my sister. She is also a SUPER STUD/award-winning historian and this is her fourth book! It is outstanding, informative, disturbing, and... SHOCKING! From her Washington Post Perspective published on 11/26/19 entitled, "Trump’s xenophobia is an American tradition — but it doesn’t have to be," "...the truth is that xenophobia has always been a central part of American life. It is an American tradition that shapes our worldview, mobilizes voters and generates profits. It influences our international relations and dictates domestic policy. And it is a form of racism and discrimination that has threatened the democratic ideals upon which this country was founded." Benjamin Franklin was worried about the Germans. Samuel Morse thought Catholic immigrants were an "insidious invasion." Chinese immigrants were excluded from immigrating in 1882. Italian, Jewish, and Eastern Europeans in the 1890's were labeled as "inferior." Mexicans living in the US (60% of whom were US citizens) were deported back to Mexico during the Great Depression. During WWII, Japanese Americans (including American citizens) were put in internment "camps." And more recently, Muslim Americans and children have been targeted. I bought both the Kindle version and the Audible audiobook so I could switch back and forth. Both were outstanding. I learned much that was completely new to me. Clearly meticulously researched and told as history should be: as a story well-told. Personal stories of real people bring the history alive. *Ms. Magazine's November 2019 Reads for the Rest of Us *USA Today’s “5 Books Not to Miss" (11/23/19) Time Magazine’s “Here Are the 11 New Books You Should Read in November”: Library Journal review: "This thoroughly researched, informative, and lucid work is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, and how it influences the current political environment." Publishers Weekly review: "This clearly organized and lucidly written book should be read by a wide audience. " Lest you think that this book is depressing, take heart: the *other* American tradition Erika writes about is... challenging and resisting xenophobia. Many stories of brave people who stood up to the bullies/racists/poor examples of humanity are throughout this book. So proud!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Worth reading once. It’s an important history topic and I learned a bit. My experience with immigration history is usually a paragraph or two in a history of a time period and the like. This book filled out much of the detail on said history. But, the writing is often repetitive. It jumps around within the chapters and so ends up saying things the reader already previously encountered. Also, it is far from a balanced viewpoint. In fact, it reads like a polemic most times. There is inconsistently Worth reading once. It’s an important history topic and I learned a bit. My experience with immigration history is usually a paragraph or two in a history of a time period and the like. This book filled out much of the detail on said history. But, the writing is often repetitive. It jumps around within the chapters and so ends up saying things the reader already previously encountered. Also, it is far from a balanced viewpoint. In fact, it reads like a polemic most times. There is inconsistently with regard to efforts to fight xenophobia and lighten the restrictions. Some groups of immigrants get much more coverage than others. Lastly, there’s not even an attempt to ask why folks opposed immigration at various times. They’re basically written off as purely racist and the like. In short, worth reading once for the overview, but writing and balance are flawed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    University of Minnesota Professor Erika Lee has argued convincingly in this book that although Americans like to think of themselves as constituting a nation of immigrants, xenophobia (meaning anxiety for foreigners) has nonetheless marred American history from the 1700s to the present. In other words, fear of immigrants living in the United States is not just a phenomenon from our own time. Through archival research, she reaches all the way back to the mid-eighteenth century to make clear to re University of Minnesota Professor Erika Lee has argued convincingly in this book that although Americans like to think of themselves as constituting a nation of immigrants, xenophobia (meaning anxiety for foreigners) has nonetheless marred American history from the 1700s to the present. In other words, fear of immigrants living in the United States is not just a phenomenon from our own time. Through archival research, she reaches all the way back to the mid-eighteenth century to make clear to readers that the headlines we see in today's newspapers instead have long roots in the American past. She begins with anxiety for German immigrants in the colonial era, then moves onto Irish Catholics, the Chinese, southeastern Europeans, the Japanese, Mexicans, and Muslims. Lee demonstrates in her clear and engaging writing that the targets of hostility have evolved over time (the Europeans once considered threatening are now widely considered the "good immigrants" by xenophobes who try to restrict Mexicans and Muslims), yet xenophobia has remained constant from the eighteenth century through the present day. For all those who believe that the humane treatment of immigrants is a positive for the United States, as this author does, Lee has delivered a thoughtful and well-researched account of how Americans have often deviated from this so we can seek to avoid the mistakes of the past.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    As Professor Lee aptly describes it, the history of America is "the history of its violent xenophobia," which even today, "maintains a tenacious grip on the United States." "In both the past and present, xenophobes have argued that immigrants are threats. But its xenophobia, not immigration, that is our gravest threat today." As Professor Lee aptly describes it, the history of America is "the history of its violent xenophobia," which even today, "maintains a tenacious grip on the United States." "In both the past and present, xenophobes have argued that immigrants are threats. But its xenophobia, not immigration, that is our gravest threat today."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    Very detailed history of how xenophobia is a part of America’s ethos since the days before the Revolutionary war to the present - only the way it is propagated has changed its face. The author’s writing style can feel a bit dry, but the book is full of eye opening historical events that need to be remembered and taught, and especially not glossed over anymore.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Persis

    America is a nation of immigrants but also a nation with a history of xenophobia. Lee walks us through the history of the latter and how being an "American" was defined and who had the power to make those definitions. If you want to maintain an idealistic view of our country, this will be a difficult book to read. However, we need to be honest about our history IMO for there to be any substantive change in how we treat one another. As Christians we also have to wrestle with the fact that we have America is a nation of immigrants but also a nation with a history of xenophobia. Lee walks us through the history of the latter and how being an "American" was defined and who had the power to make those definitions. If you want to maintain an idealistic view of our country, this will be a difficult book to read. However, we need to be honest about our history IMO for there to be any substantive change in how we treat one another. As Christians we also have to wrestle with the fact that we have heavenly citizenship as well as earthly and the values of Christ's kingdom should determine how we live here and now.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Drew Reilly

    This is a must read. I have had this book on my "Want to Read" list since I first heard about it in a Politico article in May. I anxiously awaited its release, until I was able to get a copy of it last week. Professor Lee does a fantastic job at summarizing the history of America's Anti-Immigration movement and policies. I'd urge anyone with a passion for immigration justice or social justice to give this a read. This is a must read. I have had this book on my "Want to Read" list since I first heard about it in a Politico article in May. I anxiously awaited its release, until I was able to get a copy of it last week. Professor Lee does a fantastic job at summarizing the history of America's Anti-Immigration movement and policies. I'd urge anyone with a passion for immigration justice or social justice to give this a read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    This book is clearly inspired by the age of Trump. While the US likes to see itself as a nation of immigrants, Lee notes the counter-tendency is also true and deeply part of our national history: a history of xenophobia. She traces the early days of it, from Ben Franklin opposing Germans (only to see Germans mobilize at the ballot box), the Know-Nothing opposition to Catholics, the late 19th century anti-Chinese movement (which created the first classification of immigrating illegal), to the "sc This book is clearly inspired by the age of Trump. While the US likes to see itself as a nation of immigrants, Lee notes the counter-tendency is also true and deeply part of our national history: a history of xenophobia. She traces the early days of it, from Ben Franklin opposing Germans (only to see Germans mobilize at the ballot box), the Know-Nothing opposition to Catholics, the late 19th century anti-Chinese movement (which created the first classification of immigrating illegal), to the "scientific racism of the IRL which led to the quota acts. The book gets off to a slow start, but comes alive more in the last 100 years. She discussing the anti-Mexican movement and racial marginization that led to widespread deportations during the Great Depression. The WWII anti-Japanese actions were predated by decades of "Yellow Peril" rhetoric. The best parts focus on the recent era of immigration: 1965-onward. Lee notes how opponents of the landmark 1965 act denounced it for possibly letting the "wrong" races in - while defenders didn't try to rebut the racism, just said it wouldn't let in many Asians or Africans. At this time, Plymouth Rock gave way to Ellis Island as central to Americans self-identity. By 2000, Mexico made up 30% of all immigrants, but there was an increasing visa backlog in Mexico. It could take up to 9 years (!!) to get a visa to come to the US. By 2012, 1.2 million Mexicans were waiting on a visa. Also, Lee makes one very interesting point I hadn't realized about the 1965 act: it actually reduced the level of Mexicans coming here. Under the bracero program from the 1940s to 1964, 4.6 million guest workers came. The new cap was 20,000 Mexicans (by 1976). The worldwide cap was 290,000 (reduced to 270,000 in 1980). Mexico had equal status to Togo - which defies common sense. It led to what Lee describes as discrimination under the guise of non-discrimination. Also, family reunification standards for the two hemispheres wasn't the same. For the other one, it applied to citizens and permanent residents. But it was just permanent residents for western hemisphere migrants. In recent decades, Lee draws a direct line from Prop 187 to Trump. The idea of illegal immigration was established by the late 1970s. Prop 187 linked illegal immigrants to crime. There was an old tradition of "good" and "bad" immigrants which was racialized more than ever. Buchanan fretted over white displacement. Bill Clinton sought to be tough on immigration, combining it with criminal policy ("crimmingration"). Border patrols went up. The idea of Mexicans as a criminal invasion long preceded Trump and his border wall. Trump's Muslim ban opposes ALL immigrants, not just illegal ones. Negative stereotypes for Arabs and Muslims were well in place by the 1990s. Islamaphobia was intertwined with groups like Fox News - or even the New York Times. In this book, Trump doesn't come out of nowhere - he's the result of trends both recent and long-lasting in America. In an epilogue Lee notes that opposing xenophobia is also an American tradition, and hopes it wins out. But she's annoyed how even defenders of immigrants do it in half-measures, and how we now let xenophobes set the debate by talking of border security over all else. I think she makes some good points here, but I think she goes a bit far - politicians gonna politician. I give it 4 stars, but it's close to 5 stars. The opening chapters really were a bit of a rehash of things I already knew. The best part was the section on the 1965 Act and how it hurt Mexican immigrants. Overall, it's a great book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    A well-researched, timely, and thorough examination of the United States’ established and violent history of state-sanctioned xenophobia. As Lee deftly demonstrates, “Xenophobia has never been fully excised from the United States, it has merely evolved.” Many Americans often tout the United States as “a nation of immigrants,” despite deporting more immigrants than any other nation since 1882 (55 million+), which enables a damaging historical amnesia to persist. Lee argues, “It is time to reset t A well-researched, timely, and thorough examination of the United States’ established and violent history of state-sanctioned xenophobia. As Lee deftly demonstrates, “Xenophobia has never been fully excised from the United States, it has merely evolved.” Many Americans often tout the United States as “a nation of immigrants,” despite deporting more immigrants than any other nation since 1882 (55 million+), which enables a damaging historical amnesia to persist. Lee argues, “It is time to reset the terms of the debate [about immigration and xenophobia],” and this book is certainly an excellent way to reset and reframe that debate.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Lee offers an insightful examination of the troubling truth that the United States, known as a nation of immigrants, is also a nation of xenophobia, and the reasons for this disturbing paradox. She reveals that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants is a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump administration. A finely detailed, compelling, and accessible history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Zu

    A must-read for all Americans!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben M

    Best way to summarize this book is the more things change, the more they stay the same, as some of the same anti-immigration feelings present around the country today seemed to exist throughout the US's history, along with the same tactics used to rally the public and government to act (forming lobbying groups and using the media to spread lies and misinformation), with only the era and victims of xenophobia changing. The book progresses through US history highlighting different groups and the xe Best way to summarize this book is the more things change, the more they stay the same, as some of the same anti-immigration feelings present around the country today seemed to exist throughout the US's history, along with the same tactics used to rally the public and government to act (forming lobbying groups and using the media to spread lies and misinformation), with only the era and victims of xenophobia changing. The book progresses through US history highlighting different groups and the xenophobia they faced, from the Germans in colonial times, to the Catholics in the mid-1800's, to the Chinese in the later 1800's, Northern and Western Europeans in the early 1900's, Mexicans throughout the 1900's, Japanese in the mid-1900's, and Muslims in the 2000's. While the book provides a good history lesson on the different groups targeted during different eras, it fails to fully connect all the dots. The book often refers to the lies and misinformation spread by the oppressors, but rarely demonstrates or disproves these lies. And as the chapters on the various targeted groups ends, it is never really explained what caused the public sentiment to shift. While obviously a lot of xenophobia is still present today, how did the anti-German, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Japanese xenophobia of the past end? Also, the book doesn't really distinguish between legal and illegal immigration at all, as it lumps them both together and labels opponents of illegal immigration just as xenophobic as those of all immigration. I feel there was the opportunity here for some great insights, information, rebuttals that the author didn't even attempt to address. The book is clearly anti-xenophobia, pro-immigration, but serves as more of an interesting history lesson, than something that will provide ammo to help you change somebody's mind or disprove their false claims.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nia (FaydrielReads)

    Historian Erika Lee does an incredible job walking us through American xenophobia from the very beginning with Irish immigrants to the shift that white european immigrants are seen as "good" and immigrants from all other countries are concerned "bad". I have to praise Lee for her writing. History books are usually not my favorite because they are dry. Lee does such an amazing job at keeping the book engaging, interesting, and approachable for people like me who might not love to read history as Historian Erika Lee does an incredible job walking us through American xenophobia from the very beginning with Irish immigrants to the shift that white european immigrants are seen as "good" and immigrants from all other countries are concerned "bad". I have to praise Lee for her writing. History books are usually not my favorite because they are dry. Lee does such an amazing job at keeping the book engaging, interesting, and approachable for people like me who might not love to read history as much as they do. This book should be required reading for all Americans.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joel W.

    A topic that has gripped our national conversation over the past few years that goes straight to the core of American identity is: are we a "nation of immigrants" or should we build a giant wall (literally and figuratively)? Erika Lee's well-researched and accessible historical narrative about xenophobia in the United States makes the argument that these competing views have existed alongside one another since the country's founding. Whether it was German immigrants in the 18th century, Irish an A topic that has gripped our national conversation over the past few years that goes straight to the core of American identity is: are we a "nation of immigrants" or should we build a giant wall (literally and figuratively)? Erika Lee's well-researched and accessible historical narrative about xenophobia in the United States makes the argument that these competing views have existed alongside one another since the country's founding. Whether it was German immigrants in the 18th century, Irish and Chinese in the 19th, Italians, Jews, Japanese, and Mexicans in the 20th, or Mexicans and Muslims in the 21st, America has wrestled with the question of what posture to take towards whoever the "stranger" happens to be at a given time and place. For Lee, Xenophobia has been a "constant and defining feature of American life...deeply embedded in our society, economy, and politics. It thrives best in certain contexts, such as periods of rapid economic and demographic change, but it has also been actively promoted by special interests in the pursuit of political power…. Xenophobia has been neither an aberration nor a contradiction to the United States' history of immigration. Rather, it has existed alongside and constrained America's immigration tradition, determining just who can enter our so-called nation of immigrants and who cannot" (p. 7). Folks interested in gaining fluency in the social and historical contexts that underlie present debates about immigration and refugee policies will find Lee's book helpful and informative.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    This book was an excellent overview of the intersection of anti-immigrant and racist sentiments. While the author is partisan and opinionated, she uses history and evidence well. My favorite part was the previously obscure story of mass deportations and detentions of Japanese people living in *Latin America* during WWII. While many people, myself included, knew about the EO 9066 Japanese internment in the US, I had never hear of this story before, and it deserves wider awareness. My critiques wo This book was an excellent overview of the intersection of anti-immigrant and racist sentiments. While the author is partisan and opinionated, she uses history and evidence well. My favorite part was the previously obscure story of mass deportations and detentions of Japanese people living in *Latin America* during WWII. While many people, myself included, knew about the EO 9066 Japanese internment in the US, I had never hear of this story before, and it deserves wider awareness. My critiques would be that the book lacked a robust thesis or several clear threads or themes to tie the various periods of history together. Lee's point about xenophobia being as much a part of the American story as immigration itself was clear, but not as compelling or useful as I would have liked it to be. Also, while this problem might have been unique to the audiobook version I listened to, Lee had an unfortunate habit of being too general when discussion controversy, citing "critics" or other vague groups without getting into specific scholars. This may have been a function of Lee aiming for a popular audience, but the lack of specific, especially in critiques of modern politicians, undermined some of her more modern arguments.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Giselle

    An important read that highlights the history of xenophobia and nativism in the US--Lee shows an ongoing pattern of xenophobia since the country's colonial period. A must-read for anyone interested in US Immigration History, sociology, and race. This book helped me understand the context behind my family's immigration experience. Can't recommend this book enough!! An important read that highlights the history of xenophobia and nativism in the US--Lee shows an ongoing pattern of xenophobia since the country's colonial period. A must-read for anyone interested in US Immigration History, sociology, and race. This book helped me understand the context behind my family's immigration experience. Can't recommend this book enough!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Erika Lee, history prof and award-winning author, brings the goods with "America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States." In less than 350 pages of text, Dr. Lee examines that Americans have had a "complicated" relationship with people from other countries, even as we celebrate that "we are a nation of immigrants" so frequently. Indeed, one suspects that Dr. Lee left a number of illustrative anecdotes and historical events out of her narrative, and that is a sobering thought Erika Lee, history prof and award-winning author, brings the goods with "America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States." In less than 350 pages of text, Dr. Lee examines that Americans have had a "complicated" relationship with people from other countries, even as we celebrate that "we are a nation of immigrants" so frequently. Indeed, one suspects that Dr. Lee left a number of illustrative anecdotes and historical events out of her narrative, and that is a sobering thought. On the plus side, Dr. Lee writes clearly and without flourish . . . she lets the facts speak for themselves. And there are so many facts. From the early pages in which she quotes Ben Franklin at length as he indicted the latest wave of foreigners arriving in Pennsylvania as "swarthy," "ignorant," "stupid," and not likely to be good stewards of "Liberty." These immigrants were Germans. Such harsh language flowing from the pen of arguably our most beloved Founding Father is jarring, to say the least. Unfortunately, the United States has had a strong current of xenophobia flowing through virtually every chapter of our history, and most nationalities have been the target of that xenophobia at one time or another. This goes far beyond the Big Events in U.S. history that most of us know - such as the Japanese internment camps of World War II. I'm on the West Coast, and I've talked with friends from the East Coast who cannot believe that the United States ever excluded Chinese immigrants from coming here. But it's true. It's also true that at different times, the Irish and Italians were as reviled by certain national leaders in terms as harsh as anything heard today on Fox News about caravans from Central America invading the United States. To a certain extent, xenophobia is a world problem . . . Dr. Lee never argues that the United States invented it, or even perfected it. But she calls us out for failing to recognize that xenophobia has played a large role in our history, and if we are not careful, it can (and has) become official government policy. This is true both at the national level and the state level - Dr. Lee writes a powerful chapter about California's recent anti-immigrant policies, for example. And California is not unique among the states in this regard. It is hard to challenge Dr. Lee on any point without sounding a bit like Tucker Carlson, but she does swing and miss a few times. Generally speaking, Dr. Lee's definition of xenophobia appears to be overly broad. For example, she cites President Obama's extensive use of deportations as an example of xenophobia, but she does not really dive deep into those deportations. Do we really think the Obama Administration was motivated by a fear of the "outsider"? I'm sure there are entire books to be written about the Obama Administration's use of deportation, but it is overly simplistic to reduce it to an example of xenophobia without a closer analysis of the motives behind it. Other examples are more nit-picky - is the use of Middle Eastern terrorists in "Back to the Future" really an example of xenophobia? But overall, Dr. Lee's book is an important work that should be widely read. America prides itself on being a beacon of hope to the world, and the Biden Administration appears to be working hard to reverse the ugly anti-immigration policies of the previous administration. But we need to understand that xenophobia is not just something that the former President pushed, but has been a recurring theme in American political life for longer than we've had a country. Understanding American xenophobia - and the hard work that is required to keep it as an undercurrent rather than the dominant current - is vital.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “America for Americans: a history of xenophobia in the United States,” by Erika Lee (Basic Books, 2019). Fear of the foreigner has always been with us (whomever we may be) from before the founding of the nation. Benjamin Franklin (!) was worried about all the Germans moving into Pennsylvania: swarthy, don’t want to learn English, stick together, all that stuff. Franklin was smart and adaptable enough to get over that particular phobia. But Lee argues (and demonstrates over and over and over) tha “America for Americans: a history of xenophobia in the United States,” by Erika Lee (Basic Books, 2019). Fear of the foreigner has always been with us (whomever we may be) from before the founding of the nation. Benjamin Franklin (!) was worried about all the Germans moving into Pennsylvania: swarthy, don’t want to learn English, stick together, all that stuff. Franklin was smart and adaptable enough to get over that particular phobia. But Lee argues (and demonstrates over and over and over) that “Americans” have feared outsiders coming in and ---diluting, taking over, weakening, changing the nature of---the nation. And the arguments are always the same: they’re dirty, stupid, ignorant, promiscuous, un-democratic, don’t understand the culture. The Irish. The Italians. the Jews. The Japanese. The Mexicans. The Muslims. The Eastern Europeans. The Chinese---oh my, the Chinese. The first overt official national anti-immigrant legislation was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. At least that made no secret of its purpose, no disguises. One of Lee’s grandfathers got into the country using false papers. He was an illegal undocumented etc. Besides her detailed documentation of the continuous and ongoing fear of foreigners Lee presents, she also argues that the fundamental motive beneath much of this is race. Not just Africans, but non-Protestants, non-Nordic, non-whatever white is defined as over the decades. She also shows that many legislators whose memories are somewhat celebrated were just as xenophobic and racist as the most brazen Ku Kluxers. Teddy Roosevelt, of course. But Congressman Emanuel Celler? She points out that, while the US has accepted millions of immigrants, it has also deported over 55 million immigrants since 1882. Mexicans: the country has been very weird about them. First we want them as farm workers, and encourage them to come. Then we decide, nah---send ’em back to Mexico. In California there were campaigns to encourage Mexicans to leave by the trainload. The Anglophone US has always been afraid of the Spanish roots of much of the country. After all, Latinos have been in the continental US far longer than the English. And of course, we currently have the most overtly, proudly xenophobic president in many a decade (plenty of previous administrations have been clearly anti-immigrant. Unless they are the right kind of immigrant). Trump would love to have Norwegians come here. Problem is, the Norwegians are content to stay where they are. A disheartening book---although the passion and anger she brings to the work are exhilarating. To my chagrin, I found myself agreeing with some of the arguments being used against immigrants these days. Lee would have some sort of regulation of immigration, but it needs to be rational, not racist and political. Maybe, depending on how the next few elections go. http://erikalee.org/america-for-ameri...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Across the centuries, xenophobia has been an indelible part of America. The target of our xenophobia may have changed from decade to decade, but our fear and hatred of foreigners has not. From the colonial era to the present, xenophobia has been an American tradition. This book. Wow. Just wow. After reading this book, it's no surprise that building a wall across our borders and hatred of those that are different is where we are today. In fact, it's almost a surprise that it took us this long to g Across the centuries, xenophobia has been an indelible part of America. The target of our xenophobia may have changed from decade to decade, but our fear and hatred of foreigners has not. From the colonial era to the present, xenophobia has been an American tradition. This book. Wow. Just wow. After reading this book, it's no surprise that building a wall across our borders and hatred of those that are different is where we are today. In fact, it's almost a surprise that it took us this long to get here. Lee expertly guides readers through the history of immigration and exclusion in America. From the Germans (oh wait, they're assimilating, they can be white), to the Irish, the Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Arabs, the American hatred of the "other" has been part of this country since the beginning. I seriously copied down 7.5 pages of quotes from this book and I want to put them all in this review because they're all so good and important but maybe I just need to tell you to READ THIS BOOK. Lee addresses how racism became the primary conflict of America, not class warfare and how white Americans began to define themselves as the "true" native Americans, erasing the hundreds of indigenous tribes that first called this land home. It surprised me that the places we now think of as liberal strongholds: California and New England were so often the places that put into place these restrictive laws for immigration (further proof that xenophobia is truly baked into America). There was the sudden realization that what we now call illegal immigration was created when exclusion laws went into place--which makes me that much angrier when I hear politicians wax poetic about what those "dangerous illegal immigrants" do. We created this system and are living with the consequences. Perhaps what was most shocking to me was this quote: America became, in Hitler's view, a racial model for Europe. And then the realization that the Japanese internment during WW2 was not just of US Japanese. Instead, we worked with other countries in the Americas to round up their Japanese immigrants and bring them to the US to be interned as part of a military need to keep the hemisphere safe. Lee writes The US government, which had masterminded their arrest, forced deportation, and incarceration in the United States, had classified them as illegal aliens. It reminded me of the quote from Utopia (quoted from Ever After): “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.” And if that wasn't enough, Lee goes on to write that even when the US does work on immigration laws that seem to be equal--allowing the same number of immigrants from each country--it ignores the realities of who is coming and who needs the space in line. Equality is not equity, after all, and our government certainly hasn't learned that. This "equal" policy created a "line" for immigration that by the early twenty-first century, the line was already nearly four million people long. This book is heavy but so important. It shows the history of our xenophobia and racist policies and where we came from and how we still have so far to go. It should be required reading for everyone so they understand the history behind the rhetoric of Donald Trump and other politicians. I'll leave you with a quote from Congressman Jeffery Cohelan of California: "How can the countries of the world believe that we are sincere in our concern for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination in the United States if we discriminate among them because of race or national origin?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Ann

    In this important book, Lee defines xenophobia as "a set of beliefs and ideas based on the premise that foreigners are threats to the nation and its people." This term should not be confused with nativism, which was coined in the 19th century, when white Protestants claimed themselves as native Americans. Lee demonstrates how attitudes regarding immigrants—from Germans during colonial times to Muslims post-9/11—follow the same pattern: immigrants are initially heavily recruited as labor, then vil In this important book, Lee defines xenophobia as "a set of beliefs and ideas based on the premise that foreigners are threats to the nation and its people." This term should not be confused with nativism, which was coined in the 19th century, when white Protestants claimed themselves as native Americans. Lee demonstrates how attitudes regarding immigrants—from Germans during colonial times to Muslims post-9/11—follow the same pattern: immigrants are initially heavily recruited as labor, then villainized as "bad immigrants" who "come without authorization, take away jobs from Americans, do not assimilate, [question the status quo,] rely on welfare, and hate America." Efforts to regulate the immigration of such bad immigrants demonize them while ignoring the larger global problems (including US policies and intervention) that drive migration. And why not: xenophobia helps American capitalism thrive by directing working-class resentment towards immigrants (even though they do not set the wage scale), undermining interracial labor movements, and sustaining confidence in a meritocratic economy by celebrating "good (i.e., capitalistic) immigrants." I learned a lot: how the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 established the U.S. as the first gatekeeping nation, created the paradigm of "good" vs "bad" immigrants, and defined "illegal immigration" as a crime; how Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race inspired Hitler; how Mexican-Americans were deported during the Depression and Japanese-Peruvians were deported to the U.S. during WWII to be exchanged for American civilians stranded in Japan. I have already read America Is in the Heart, but may read her other recommendations that humanize immigrants: The Melting Pot and The Promised Land. Although I often found myself skimming this dry history, I agree with Lee that acknowledging the historical impact of xenophobia in our immigration laws and economic policies will help us stop "[replacing] one injustice with another". After all, We are living in an era of unprecedented global migration as economic, political, social, and environmental forces continue to drive people from their homes. On our interconnected and warming planet, our future well-being will be inextricably connected to the well-being of those whom we might consider "strangers." As all of humanity faces limited resources and opportunities, we cannot afford to practice the closed-mindedness and isolation that xenophobia promotes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy D Lucas

    During the first half of the Trump Administration, as the sun rose on American outrage toward the separation of families at the border, toward the multiple muslim bans, toward the violence and the arrogance of Charlottesville, opponents argued that it was unbecoming of our American values, that these callous and careless actions were inhumane and cruel, while defenders made a different case, that Obama was no different, that a bunch of other administrations were just as bad, and that this outrag During the first half of the Trump Administration, as the sun rose on American outrage toward the separation of families at the border, toward the multiple muslim bans, toward the violence and the arrogance of Charlottesville, opponents argued that it was unbecoming of our American values, that these callous and careless actions were inhumane and cruel, while defenders made a different case, that Obama was no different, that a bunch of other administrations were just as bad, and that this outrage was selectively aimed at one unlikeable president in particular. Both were tragically right. And both were frustratingly wrong. For the opponents and the defenders, Erika Lee would argue, rightly, that our American values have always been split between our “city on a hill” optimism about immigration and our “get out and stay the hell out” paranoia of foreigners who share the same soil, that it is not just a “Trump” thing, or an “Obama” thing, but an “American” thing. To say that “our values” are being compromised in the separation of families, in the marches of white nationalism, in the banning of religious minorities, one might just as easily argue, from anywhere in the nation or the world paying attention, that our cruelty and our aggressive animosity toward immigrants, toward “the other,” has always been loud and well documented, even if we prefer to think of ourselves, our record, and our history as largely cleared of wrongdoing. Acts of American xenophobia are not occasional failures of misjudgment, rooted in the fringes of society. Acts of American xenophobia are the norm, rooted in the most plain and obvious institutions of society. And the more we push that truth down, the more we pretend the problems lie somewhere else, with someone else, so long as we see never concede the villainous pattern of our history, we will continue to be the contradictory and hypocritical heroes of the world in our own eyes. Thank you, Erika Lee, for putting it all there, plain, obvious, and undeniable for anyone whose eyes are open.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    The Muslim ban. The border wall. Banning people from certain countries from coming to the United States. Sending refugees who have been living in the United States for decades back to their country of origin. Author Lee takes the reader though a history of xenophobia in the United States, from the earliest suspicions of Germans to the Muslim ban of today. The book is divided by topic in roughly chronological order (sometimes in order to give more context there's some going back in time). It was a The Muslim ban. The border wall. Banning people from certain countries from coming to the United States. Sending refugees who have been living in the United States for decades back to their country of origin. Author Lee takes the reader though a history of xenophobia in the United States, from the earliest suspicions of Germans to the Muslim ban of today. The book is divided by topic in roughly chronological order (sometimes in order to give more context there's some going back in time). It was an interesting and sad look and how xenophobia, racism, fear of "others" has a history that predates the United States as a concept. We are better than this? Not sure about that. As you can probably tell, it's not a happy book but also one that's needed. Overall, though, I thought the previous book I've read by her ('The Making of Asian America') was better. This one felt like a lot of dates and names tacked together but not quite as interesting as the previous entry, perhaps because she's trying to cover so many groups in a relatively short book. And while I learned a bit about Germans and Irish Catholics, some of the current events might be repetitive (depends on how much you've kept up with the news). I also somewhat object to the title. "America" and the "United States" are not necessarily synonymous. And while I appreciated Lee did cover the internment of Japanese people who were living in/were born in Latin American countries, I hesitate a bit on the title (same with 'Making'). Minor quibble, though. But all the same, it's still a good and necessary read. Borrowed from the library but wouldn't be surprised if this is a book that pops up in school syllabi. It's definitely readable without it, though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo

    A distressing history of xenophobia in North America. Not written as an academic history, the narrative still tends to be a straight-forward recitation of facts. The end result though, is no less devastating. Prominent colonial writers in 1717 advocated for a halt to German immigration, citing that crime and poverty rose with their migration and that their general foreignness was a threat. This argument has then been used by anti-immigrant forces ever since. The book then details the litany of a A distressing history of xenophobia in North America. Not written as an academic history, the narrative still tends to be a straight-forward recitation of facts. The end result though, is no less devastating. Prominent colonial writers in 1717 advocated for a halt to German immigration, citing that crime and poverty rose with their migration and that their general foreignness was a threat. This argument has then been used by anti-immigrant forces ever since. The book then details the litany of abuses against Chinese, Mexican and Jewish immigrants, right up until the demonization of Muslims in the early 21st century. Erika Lee sees that Trump's anti-immigrant and Islamophobic polices are not aberrations or have appeared in a vacuum, but rather are concrete distillations of views that have been in the American undercurrent for over a century and rose precipitously since 9/11. The hostile view of Islam was already institutionalized within some sectors of immigration enforcement, and all they needed was leadership to point them in a more restrictive path. She also points out how xenophobia has been whitewashed out of public historical discourse. Citing the expulsion of Chinese immigrants from Seattle in the 1880s, she references a plaque that blames economic hardships on Seattle residents that resulted in racial instability; similar to the “economic anxiety” as an excuse among the more passionate supporters of President Trump. While there is much darkness in here, Lee also points out that the system that condoned these policies also had the capacity to condemn it. There are also stories of advocates in public offices and local communities that reminded other Americans of the promise of pan-ethnic inclusion. But a weary eye needs to be maintained. As Erika Lee makes clear, “By ignoring the deep roots of xenophobia in our past, we ignore the deep hold that xenophobia has in our present.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This dive into the xenophobia coursing through American history might be better read than listened to. The prose was awkward at times, and I couldn't tell if the narrator was slipping up or the writing wasn't crisp. And the structure, going group-by-group, meant that the book was continuously and sometimes confusingly lapping back in time to cover the same hate filled policies and politics as they were directed at different groups. If you want a synopsis, just think of the excrement the former pr This dive into the xenophobia coursing through American history might be better read than listened to. The prose was awkward at times, and I couldn't tell if the narrator was slipping up or the writing wasn't crisp. And the structure, going group-by-group, meant that the book was continuously and sometimes confusingly lapping back in time to cover the same hate filled policies and politics as they were directed at different groups. If you want a synopsis, just think of the excrement the former president spewed when announcing his campaign, or of the unhinged apocalyptic ramblings at his inauguration, but directed at German, or Irish, or Chinese, or Japanese, or Mexican, or Italian, or Islamic, or other immigrants, and you'll get the picture. Throughout our history, those who opposed new arrivals took the arguments and rhetoric that had allowed them to dehumanize Africans and indigenous Americans to justify enslavement and genocide and applied them to each of these groups in turn. Ultimately, immigrants from Europe came to be seen as white, and in a generation or two they took up the charge against subsequent arrivals, with immigrants from Asia and Mexico receiving especially cruel treatment. It's a hard history, but the repetition signals how deep this thinking is in our national fiber and how tough it is to root out.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patti Hinko

    Pros: I was hooked from the start. Lee traces the roots of Xenophobia from before the United States was even a country up to 2017/2018. It wasn't just the fact that the information was well researched and comprehensive, it is that Lee keeps her readers engaged by providing stories of people who experienced xenophobia and showed how each group that was discriminated against fueled the United States' fear of anything that isn't white, Protestant, or English speaking. I personally enjoyed learning Pros: I was hooked from the start. Lee traces the roots of Xenophobia from before the United States was even a country up to 2017/2018. It wasn't just the fact that the information was well researched and comprehensive, it is that Lee keeps her readers engaged by providing stories of people who experienced xenophobia and showed how each group that was discriminated against fueled the United States' fear of anything that isn't white, Protestant, or English speaking. I personally enjoyed learning some new information such as the United States helped South America, especially Peru, get rid of their Japanese population by bringing them to the United States and putting them in internment camps during WWII along with the Japanese Americans. Cons: I wish it ended with a better and clearer "so this is what needs to be done." Charly xenophobia is rooted in America. How do we get rid of it? Would I Recommend: Yes. Xenophobia in America has hurt everyone from Catholics to Jews to Eastern Europeans to Mexicans to Chinese to Japanese to Muslims to Italians to Africans and everyone else in between (except for White Protestants). It is important to understand the history of it so it can be identified in current society.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Don

    The title quickly summarizes what this book covers, and it does it in a series of chapters each looking at a different time in American history - from colonial times to modern day - and what the primary target of the Xenophobia was, and how it manifested itself. The underlying and prevalent theme in the book is that the tools used in furtherance of individuals and societies xenophobia build on one another in addition to repeating one another. In addition, the same prejudicial language is used to The title quickly summarizes what this book covers, and it does it in a series of chapters each looking at a different time in American history - from colonial times to modern day - and what the primary target of the Xenophobia was, and how it manifested itself. The underlying and prevalent theme in the book is that the tools used in furtherance of individuals and societies xenophobia build on one another in addition to repeating one another. In addition, the same prejudicial language is used to describe the various reviled immigrant of the moment, whether it be Irish Catholics in antebellum America, the Chinese following the American civil war, or non Western European in the early 1900s, all the way to the strain of Islamophobia that has existed for the last 20 years when it comes to immigration. At certain times and in certain chapters, I thought that perhaps the writing could have been more concise or less repetitive; on the flip side, it hammered the author's thesis home. If nothing else, the book highly supports the saying that while history may not repeat itself, it most certainly rhymes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    Erika Lee put together a very comprehensive and understandable book of the history behind xenophobia in America. She did this brilliantly, as she started with the roots of xenophobia and how it has historically seeded itself into the fabric of the United States. What I enjoyed most was her ability to address this hatred and rampant prejudice group by group. From Germans to Italians to Irish, and then moving her way into non-white populations which faced vastly stronger hate and derision in the n Erika Lee put together a very comprehensive and understandable book of the history behind xenophobia in America. She did this brilliantly, as she started with the roots of xenophobia and how it has historically seeded itself into the fabric of the United States. What I enjoyed most was her ability to address this hatred and rampant prejudice group by group. From Germans to Italians to Irish, and then moving her way into non-white populations which faced vastly stronger hate and derision in the name of manifest destiny and eugenics. Certainly a book I would recommend to anyone who does not know the lengths that American history has gone to keep America a nation of WASP's and Euro-centric. What I enjoyed also about Lee's America for Americans was how new and up to date it is with the current Trump administration and it's blatantly biased and racist policies, and how it is nearly identically vilifying of immigrants just as was the case 100 years to 200 years prior. Lee does an excellent job at peeling the layers and exposing the roots of prejudice in America and the lengths people even today will go to condone it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    LeeAnne

    So this was playing in my car while I was driving my son to school and his summary was "bad behavior." There was some really interesting content in here, but it didn't come together very well. I feel like I needed more details to help me get to the authors conclusion of "xenophobia" in a few instances. For example when our nation refused to allow immigration from the Ottoman Empire when it was allied with Germany and we were at war with Germany. The author shares this fact but labels it Islamic x So this was playing in my car while I was driving my son to school and his summary was "bad behavior." There was some really interesting content in here, but it didn't come together very well. I feel like I needed more details to help me get to the authors conclusion of "xenophobia" in a few instances. For example when our nation refused to allow immigration from the Ottoman Empire when it was allied with Germany and we were at war with Germany. The author shares this fact but labels it Islamic xenophobia. It may be that my understanding of wartime immigration policy is terrible (it is) but it does make sense to me to not allow immigration from allies of a country with whom one is at war. I would need some context, such as a list of countries allied with our enemies during previous wars for which we allowed immigration. It may be a better book for someone more knowledgable about immigration policy in general. I certainly learned a great deal, but I needed some things to be better fleshed out to help me better understand the author.

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